Ready for this jelly?
No longer for kids: jelly now costs $7 a blob, and you’ll be happy to pay. Its return can mean only one thing: the end is nigh.
Listen, toots. I’ve been busy. How was I supposed to know that jelly is back? Oh, it’s been back for ages, apparently. Corporate parties have jelly bars, now; conferences offer jelly tasting-wheels at dinner. You can have a jelly trolley at your wedding reception; you can courier cubes of glammy jelly across town.
How jolly is that? Even writing the word “jelly” makes me quiver with a happy nostalgia: I mean, if you could stop childish joy in time, or catch a giggle, you’d probably set it in jelly.
Designer jelly is bespoke, from what I can tell. It’s not a supermarket thing. These are wobbly works of art. They come in complicated flavours (tea, lychee, elderflower). They might taste of booze. They’re cut into gem shapes, drizzled with syrup, sprinkled with gold dust and flowers. You’d have to be Ebenezer Scrooge to object to such harmless, pretty fancies; I mean, who gets cross at a jelly?
Its return, though, can mean only one thing. The end is nigh.
I mean, in food terms, the journey really does finish here. There’s nothing less complex than jelly; it’s the single-celled organism of the restaurant kingdom. What is it – gelatine, water, sugar, and a rose-petal? How can we get excited about this, when in the past we’ve had every resource at our disposal?
I can remember when pastry chefs would use blowtorches to caramelise Baked Alaska which, for anyone under 20, was a cake topped with icecream slathered in meringue. We used to have to TAME desserts with FIRE. No wonder we all went crazy for open-view restaurant kitchens! Dinner-time was a spectacle, a battle between goodness and evil. Chefs were basically Jedi; dessert, my friends, was a metaphor you could eat.
The jelly craze signals how far we’ve fallen, as a species. It’s like we’re delighted that there’s anything left to enjoy because the planet is a smoking ash-heap and we’ve gnawed through every alternative food group. Gelatine is all that remains.
Also, it’s a prim choice, isn’t it? I hate to say it, but there’s something squeaky-clean about its charisma. If it were a style, it would sing to a synthesiser, probably on a Sunday, in an auditorium full of people wearing flat-fronted pants.
Jelliness is close to godliness, because these days to eat simply is to be spiritually clean. I can’t tell you how many things you must now refuse to signal your virtue. Gluten, meat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, carbohydrates, sugar. Personally, I’ve never met anyone who has successfully given up all seven of these edible sins and I’m not sure I’d want to be trapped in a lift with them if I did. But we’ve all given up something, lately, haven’t we? It’s just so lazy, so immoral, not to abstain.
Still, a spoonful of sugar in a dab of jelly can’t be bad? I mean, you can literally see through jelly: how can something so translucent fail to be clean? No, it’s got to be good for you, or at least good for your conscience. I’ll have another blob, please, and don’t hold back on the gold leaf.
I wonder what the French think of the jelly craze. After all, Paris is the arbiter of fashionable dining: the best table, metaphorically, in the global restaurant.
I find it hard to believe they’d get jazzed about jelly. After all, this is a country where the national principles of equality, society and freedom transubstantiate daily into bread, butter and cream. You don’t mess around with a French person’s patisserie; you might as well burn their constitution.
I tootled around reading about France to get a handle on the jelly situation and I have to say, the consensus there seems to be “bof”. Paris has no opinion. There are better things to worry about – for one thing, President Macron. He’s so unpopular right now! If he were dessert, he’d be blancmange.
His wife Brigitte, meanwhile, is well-liked. I find this surprising, and not just because of the age gap or the unpalatable fact she left her first husband for a
It’s like we’re delighted that there’s anything left to enjoy because we’ve gnawed through every alternative food group.
teenager. I imagined Paris wouldn’t forgive her boxy bolero jackets with the double-breasted buttons, her epaulettes, or her peroxide-blonde bob. She looks like Coco Chanel, if Coco was a baton-twirling marching instructor from Ohio. She is not chic.
But no! Paris doesn’t care! It likes unapologetic women, who care not a fig for their critics. Parisians like a croissant to be a croissant. They know that the meek don’t inherit the Earth: the people with appetites do.
That’s what we need: permission to eat. To fully be. Where did the joy go? It left the table without asking. We need to bring it back, because I don’t think I’m ready for just jelly.